Friday, January 10, 2014

Horrible People: Why We Should Love Them

“If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”

I like that saying because it’s true; there is no need to fix something that is perfectly fine. 

Recently, my dad and I brought two vintage snowmobiles (a 1990 Polaris Indy Trail and a 1981 Polaris TXC) to a family friend’s snowmobile shop to be tuned up. These two particular machines had not been driven much before we purchased them (the combined mileage for the two machines barely broke 1,000 miles, which is incredible for machines that old). Instead of being driven, the two machines had been sitting outside under snowmobile covers for years. Quite peculiarly, there was a hornets’ nest inside the engine compartment on the Indy! So it was safe to assume that the snowmobiles needed a tuneup before we hit the trails. 

When we arrived with our snowmobiles, we noticed another Indy Trail like ours that was also in the guy’s shop. It was obvious that this other Indy--we will call it the “old Indy”--had had its better days and was now in “retirement.” Our friend said he had been working on the old Indy for a month in an attempt to get it running, only to discover that the snowmobile was far more damaged than appearances suggested.

Eventually, after checking and tweaking everything in the old Indy’s engine, our friend discovered that one of the pistons was cracked. It was fixable, he said, but it would cost over one-thousand dollars to repair--that is more than the snowmobile is worth. All that is usually left for snowmobiles like the old Indy is to sell it for parts, since it would be economically inviable to repair it.

Then, on the other hand, there was our Indy. As mentioned above, our machine had hardly been driven (it had 260 miles on it), despite being 24 years old, and it was still in great shape. Fortunately for us, we possessed a machine that was essentially “just off the lot.” Our machine was a far easier tuneup than the old Indy, and after we cleaned or replaced the necessary parts, we got it running within a few hours. Now it was ready for the trails!

From this experience, besides learning some of the basics about snowmobile maintenance, I came to the conclusion that all snowmobiles must be repaired eventually. Our Indy Trail, although being in it’s “youth,” will one day be a pile of scraps like the old Indy--that is, if I ride it.

What about humans? 

Whether we admit it or not, we all need repair. There are people like our Indy that need very little repair, and then there are people like the old Indy that are seen as worthless as a pile of scraps. Repair seems to be a part of life, and even human beings need repair.

Do you know anyone who isn’t in need of a repair?

If everyone is in need of repair, whether it be severe, like the old Indy, or mild, like our Indy, wouldn’t it make sense to acknowledge their repairability on a daily basis? In other words, how often do we see other people’s faults as something that is repairable? Wouldn't that make life a little easier--at least a little more tolerable? I think so.

Instead of seeing everyone as repairable, I think we tend to see only some people as repairable, and see the others as scraps--like the old Indy. 

Why is it that pedophiles, rapists, serial killers, dictators, and abusers are the ones who number our scrap pile? We look at “horrible” people with disgust as if they were only good for scraps, but we gladly forgive easily forgivable people. 

What I see here is a consensus, among “lesser sinners,” that baring oneself against “greater sinners” and horrible people is legitimate. 

I also see something more subtle and equally as dangerous, and that is the failure to see our own selves as repairable. I know that forgiving oneself seems selfish, but it is what Jesus asks us to do. We must accept that repair is offered to all of us, even if we are too ashamed to consider it.

We can bar ourselves against horrible people and “greater sinners,” and we can bar ourselves in and refuse repair ourselves, but that doesn’t mean we ought to. Even if we can build walls, does that mean we should?

Did Jesus bar himself against people? What kind of walls did he construct? I can’t remember either because that was not his response to broken people. Building walls and baring people out is something that Jesus will not tolerate. Remember that the very people Jesus had the most trouble with (the leaders of the Law) were the ones who failed to see past their own stipulations and sensibilities? How are those who build walls by differentiating between repairable people and unrepairable people any different? 

Doesn’t Jesus think that everyone is repairable? Will Jesus refuse to pay more for a broken man whose repair cost more than his life is worth?

“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8)

“God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.” (Eph. 2:4-5)

Everyone is repairable, and Jesus is able to repair us all. He is able to repair every pedophile as well as every white liar. Having said this, though, I think that it’s too easy for us to superficially acknowledge that it’s true. We may say that “yes, everyone is repairable,” but it’s another thing entirely to live like it’s true. For instance, how easy is it to live alongside a child sex offender and see him as repairable? How easy is it to work alongside a pervert? How easy is it to forgive an abusive parent?

Superficial acknowledgement of everyone’s repairability will not suffice, since once we are forced to live next to a “scrap pile,” it’s too easy to retract into judgmental guardedness. 

Now, I can’t imagine how horrible some people’s lives are, nor am I being overly simplistic by encouraging us all to be forgiving and gracious towards horrible people. It’s certainly not easy to live with horrible people, and I never want to be the one to judge someone for not being forgiving towards another. 

That being said, everyone is still repairable. God is still working; God is still writing everyone’s story. God is not ashamed to pay the price to resurrect a pile of scrap, even when the cost is far more than the pile is worth.

I think if we remember that Jesus paid more for our repair than our own lives are worth, we may be able to see those people whom we call “horrible” as people loved by God. 

Yes, they are loved by God, just like you and me.

We are all enemies of God if we were able to have our way. We would all be like the horrible people we despise if we had our way. If we forget that, then we are no better than the worst of sinners. We would be likened to a pile of scrap that desires to stay scrap instead of being resurrected back to life.

Regardless of how you view yourself or how you view the “piles of scrap” around you, God loves you just as much as those “piles of scrap.” I want to keep that in mind on a daily basis. 

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